Annual Litter Production Method

Litter production is measured to assess the annual woody and non-woody litter fall as well as the turnover rates expressed as dry tonnes/hectare/year. Estimating annual litter biomass production is a complex task and involves fixing litter traps in all the sample plots and collecting and weighing the litter every month. This requires protecting litter traps and preventing removal of litter from litter traps in field situations. The method involves significant human effort. The following steps could be adopted for estimating annual litter production:

Step 1: Select and stratify the land-use category or project activity.

Step 2: Select the plots earmarked for measuring shrub biomass (Chapter 10):

° Normally 8-10 plots per stratum, each measuring 5 x 5 m

Step 3: Assemble material required for field study, namely:

° XRope and pegs for marking the plot, litter trays, a balance for weighing litter, cotton bags for collecting sample for drying, a knife for cutting litter

Step 4: Fabricate square litter trays made of 1.5 mm wire mesh with a wooden frame:

° Dimensions = 1 x 1 x 0.1 m (depth) with the wooden frame ° Number = 8-10 per stratum

Step 5: Install the litter trays randomly in the shrub plots by fixing the trays about 15 cm above the ground to ensure that water does not accumulate in them and that they are not easily removable or damaged. Step 6: Collect the litter fallen into the trap once in a month on a fixed date.

Remove deadwood (>10 cm diameter) if any. Step 7: Record the fresh weight of the litter:

° Separate the woody and non-woody litter ° Weigh each component separately for each trap ° Take about 0.5 kg of fresh litter for dry matter estimation

Step 8: Repeat the field collection and measurement of litter once in every month for 12 months.

Step 9: Calculate and tabulate dry weight of woody and non-woody litter on monthly basis.

Step 10. Calculate the per hectare annual litter production using the following procedure:

Pool the weights of woody and non-woody litter from all the plots in a stratum Convert the fresh weight to dry weight on a monthly basis Add the total dry weight from all the plots for each of the 12 months Extrapolate total dry annual litter fall from sample plots to dry tonnes/hectare/year

12.2.1.1 Merits and Demerits of Measuring Annual Litter Production

Merits: It is possible to obtain reliable estimates of annual litter production.

The method provides separate estimates for woody and non-woody litter and even by species, if necessary. Demerits: Visiting the site every month for a year is expensive. Protection of litter trap-trays in the field is difficult since they may be damaged by grazing or wild animals or stolen. Some of the litter could be blown away by wind.

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